Babylon & Beyond

Observations from Iraq, Iran,
Israel, the Arab world and beyond

« Previous Post | Babylon & Beyond Home | Next Post »

SAUDI ARABIA: Transcript of call from bomber to prince reveals tangled history

September 2, 2009 | 10:12 am

Prince The transcript of a phone conversation that took place between would-be assassin Abdullah Hasan Taleh Asiri and his target, Prince Mohammad Bin Nayef, a leading force in the Kingdom's counter-terrorism program, reveals the two had been in contact for some time prior to the suicide attack that killed Asiri and slightly injured Bin Nayef.

When word of the attack surfaced last week, questions immediately arose as to how the bomber was able to gain access to the prince's home, where the explosion took place.

But a recording released by the Interior Ministry and aired on Saudi television shows the prince had agreed to meet with Asiri to negotiate an amnesty deal for Asiri and other repentant militants wishing to return from Yemen. The prince seems especially concerned with a woman and her children who apparently fled Saudi Arabia without the consent of her family and were with Asiri and his group.

Bomber But despite the serious nature of the topic at hand, the tone of the conversation is cordial and familiar: The two exchanged pleasantries for the holy month of Ramadan and the prince asked after Asiri's family members by name. At Asiri's request, the prince sent his personal jet to pick Asiri up from the border and bring him to his home in Jedda, where Asiri blew himself up in the prince's receiving room.

Here is an excerpt of the transcript:

Bin Nayef: Happy Ramadan to you. How is your brother Ibrahim, I hope he is well?

Asiri: He is fine, thank God.

Bin Nayef: I hope your parents are well.

Asiri: May God bless all. May God make things easier.

Bin Nayef: Things will always be fine, as long as man bears God in his mind. Is there something you want from me?

Asiri: Well, I would like to meet you.

Bin Nayef: No problem, but I am in Jedda and you are far.

Asiri: I want to come and brief you.

Bin Nayef: I want reassurance about Sa'id's wife and the children. I hope they are well [...] Please look after them before anything else, for the sake of their family [...] Frankly, they are more important to me than yourselves.

Asiri: You can rest assured [...]

Bin Nayef: Beware; the evil people would like to exploit everyone. Rely on God and come back to your homeland [...] Your brothers must return home before they are led astray by evil people.

Asiri: God willing. We love you for the sake of God, and God willing, we hope the situation will be resolved.

Bin Nayef: Things will be fine. What matters to me is that your innocent parents are happy with your return. Your parents keep a brave face in public, but deep inside they are suffering.

Asiri: Did you talk to them?

Bin Nayef: I am always in touch with them and I am only doing my duty.

Asiri: I want to call them [...]

Bin Nayef: You have my word, if you come here we will talk frankly, but the main thing is for your group to return soon. How are they?

Asiri: The group said Shaykh Sa'id wanted me to meet the prince because the men are a bit concerned [...] Could you send me a plane as soon as possible so I can talk to the group from your office. Because if I call them from your office they will be reassured, God willing [...].

Bin Nayef: Consult around you, but the most important thing is not to call your mother until Ibrahim is there.

Asiri: Will do, and we hope that you will forgive us.

Bin Nayef: You don't have to talk to me about forgiveness. You are our son. All we want is your return to the fold before they exploit you.

-- Meris Lutz in Beirut

Photos, from top: Prince Mohammad Bin Nayef, a top authority in  the Saudi counter-terrorism program, was targeted by Abdullah Hasan Taleh Asiri in a suicide attack in Jedda. Credits, from top: Bilal Qabalan; AFP / SITE intelligence group